Get Shorty, 1995.
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.
Starring John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Rene Russo, Dennis Farina, Delroy Lindo, James Gandolfini, and Bette Midler.
Barry Sonnenfeld’s early 90s classic, Hollywood-skewering Get Shorty gets the Shout! Factory Select Series treatment, complete with a new 4K transfer. The bonus features are from previous releases, but it’s a worthwhile purchase if you don’t have this one in your home video library yet.
I love movies about movies. Whether it’s the pathos of Tim Burton’s Ed Wood or the biting satire of Robert Altman’s The Player, I appreciate any director and screenwriter who are willing to bite the hand that feeds them, even if it’s just a little nip. In the case of Get Shorty, John Travolta’s role as mob-guy-turned-film-producer is clearly a not-so-subtle comment on Tinseltown’s power dynamics. (Is Harvey Weinstein really that different from a corpulent crime boss?)
Travolta plays Chili Palmer, a movie-loving hood who ends up under the thumb of rival mob guy Ray Bones (Dennis Farina) when his boss drops dead. When he’s sent to collect on money owed by a dry cleaner who faked his own death, Palmer follows the trail to Los Angeles, where a side job involving schlock flick producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) awaits.
Palmer, relying on that old adage “write about what you know,” pitches a movie idea to Zimm that’s based on the dry cleaner’s story. Zimm takes the bait and Palmer decides to see if he can make it in Hollywood while trying to figure out where his mark is hiding. Bones, however, hasn’t forgotten about the dry cleaner’s debt, which he’s determined to get out of Palmer if necessary.
Get Shorty also features a deep cast, with Danny DeVito playing famous actor Martin Weir, Delroy Lindo as drug dealer and fellow wannabe movie producer Bo Catlett, James Gandolfini as Catlett’s bodyguard, and Bette Midler as Zimm’s girlfriend. Harvey Keitel and Penny Marshall appear as themselves. It may not be on the same level as The Player, but Get Shorty is still a joy to watch.
Based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, Get Shorty is not only a jab at moviemaking disguised as a crime film, but it also serves as one of the last glimpses into an era that’s now gone. Released in 1995, it was shot on celluloid and features a Hollywood that’s blissfully free of smartphones, social media, copious amounts of CGI, and lens flare. Palmer also happens to be a fan of old movies, a character trait that today feels as quaint as it would have been 23 years ago to have someone be a fan of radio plays.
This Collector’s Edition Blu-ray is the latest in Shout! Factory’s Select series, which features many minor classics from the 80s and 90s. The film sports a brand new 4K transfer – this is probably the best it’s ever looked on home video, including the previous Blu-ray release.
The bonus features on the platter are recycled from past editions, but if you’ve never picked up Get Shorty on disc before, or you have an older bare bones release, this is the perfect opportunity to do so. The special features include:
- Commentary track with director Barry Sonnenfeld: This is a track that’s actually been around since the movie was first released on laserdisc. (Remember those?) It’s a nice discussion that thoroughly covers the making of the movie and includes plenty of interesting stories.
- Look at Me (27 minutes): Created for the 2004 DVD release, this featurette uses interviews with Travolta, Hackman, Leonard, Sonnenfeld, Danny DeVito, and screenwriter Scott Frank to tell the story of the making of the film.
- The Graveyard Scene (8 minutes): Ben Stiller played a movie director in this scene cut from the movie. Sonnenfeld and Stiller discuss the scene in an introduction. Sonnenfeld says he cut it because it upset the pace of the movie, but it’s very funny and it’s only a little over three minutes, so I would have argued to keep it.
- Wiseguys and Dolls (20 minutes): Also from the 2004 DVD, this featurette covers the secondary criminal characters and the women in the film.
- Going Again! (5 minutes): This is a brief look at how DeVito, also a director, operated on set: He would say “Going again!” if he blew a line, rather than let Sonnenfeld yell “Cut!”, so that he could remain in the moment and keep the scene going.
- Page to Screen of Get Shorty (29 minutes): This is an episode of Bravo’s old TV series, from the days when cable networks actually ran some interesting stuff. It covers Elmore Leonard’s career and the process of adapting his novel for the movie. Peter Gallagher hosts.
- Vignettes (6 minutes): DeVito talks about the difficulties of getting the movie made and Sonnenfeld discusses being a director in a series of four short interview clips.
- Party Reel (6 minutes): This is some behind-the-scenes footage that was shot on one of the video cameras of the early 90s. The quality isn’t great, but there are some nice fly-on-the-wall moments.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★